Wed, 02 Jul 2008 17:37 EDT
There is still no explanation of the fireball that soared through
Southern California skies yesterday morning at about 10:40 a.m. "I was
in downtown Los Angeles on the 31st floor of my office and just
happened to look out the window to see a bright white streak disappear
behind the the San Gabriel Mountains. It was over in an instant. It was
huge, at least as wide as the moon, but it had a tail," wrote Brian Bartholomew in an LA Times comments section.
Most reports of witnessing the fireball came from within Riverside
and San Bernardino counties. Even "fire crews in Barstow and on I-15
near Stateline reported seeing an object in the sky moving very fast
across the northern sky and described it as yellowish green in color
with streaks of debris. It looked like it burned up before it hit the
ground," according to an LA Times report.
Some thought it may have been an aircraft, but the FAA claims they have no missing planes on record. Rimoftheworld.net archived
the radio calls between some agencies and reports that "some experts
believe it was space junk burning up as it entered the Earth's
"The eyewitness account suggests it was a small asteroid hitting the
atmosphere," Lance Benner of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab said to the
Times. 25 or so meteorites are said to fall onto California annually.
The American Meteor Society tracks witness sightings
of fireballs, the majority of which are reported to be seen at night.
According to their table database, there were various Los Angeles area
reports of them near midnight on June 14. On June 17, a slew of more
sightings were documented. Various commenters on LAist explained witnessing a fireball within the past few weeks, but saw no news reports on it.
Thu, 31 Jul 2008 17:42 EDT
Earlier this month, a mysterious fireball flew over
the Los Angeles region. And now today, an e-mail tipster sends this to
our inbox: "There was some sonic boom noise in Santa Monica, and all my
neighbors reported hearing it, but nobody could figure out what this
was. Have you heard of it?
My coworker swears she saw a 'low flying shooting star that exploded
over the ocean.'" Santa Monica Police report no calls about anything as
such. Anyone else hear or see anything? Comment below.
Sat, 02 Aug 2008 14:02 EDT
I always look forward to August.
For one thing, the searing desert heat where I live is almost at an
end. For another, the skies are particularly generous with their
But my favorite reason for enjoying August is that I get to write a word I can use only once a year: "Thither."
It comes up every year around this time because it's when we're
approaching the annual Perseid meteor shower. It was the ancient
Chinese who first documented this shower in the year 36 and wrote,
"more than 100 meteors flew thither in the morning." Of course, they
used a corresponding word in Chinese, but you get the idea.
The New Lexicon Webster's Dictionary of the English Language defines
the word "thither" as an adverb that means "to or toward that place."
And my guess is that the "place" to which they referred was the
Stand outside during any meteor shower and you'll see meteors, or
shooting stars, all over the sky. But if you trace their paths
backward, they all appear to come from one specific location in the
sky. This is called the showers "radiant" and is often named for the
constellation in which it appears. That's why this month's shower is
known as the Perseids: its radiant lies in the direction of the
This year's peak occurs late during the night of Aug. 11, and early
the morning of Aug. 12. Typically we spot most meteors before dawn.
This isn't a conspiracy to prevent evening stargazers from watching the
show; it occurs because it's during those hours that we face the
direction of our planet's motion and can watch as the atmosphere sweeps
up meteoric particles.
During the shower's peak, stargazers can expect to count as many as
50 or 60 meteors per hour once the bright, gibbous moon sets low in the
For the best view, many people camp in the mountains or countryside,
or park their cars alongside rural roads away from traffic. Be sure to
take a lawn chair or sleeping bag, a blanket or hot chocolate to keep
warm, and gaze up toward the northern and northeastern sky.
And I'll just bet that, before the night is over, you actually hear someone utter the word "thither"!
David L Chandler
Mon, 28 Jul 2008 23:12 EDT
A "gravity tractor" could deflect an
Earth-threatening asteroid if it was deployed when the asteroid was
more than one orbit away from the potential impact, according to a new
study. If the space rock was found heading straight for Earth, a
combination of techniques - including a gravity tractor - might save
|©Dan Durda/FIAAA/B612 Foundation|
gravity tractor would fly near an asteroid and gravitationally nudge it
off course (Illustration: Dan Durda/FIAAA/B612 Foundation)
The study, carried out by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena, California, shows that the weak gravitational pull of a
nearby spacecraft could deflect a hypothetical asteroid 140 metres
across, big enough to cause regional devastation if it hit Earth.
"Prior to this study, the gravity tractor deflection technique had
been proven in only a conceptual way," says Clark Chapman of the
Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, who was not involved
in the study.
"Although there were few, if any, substantive criticisms of these
concepts, some of us had the feeling that the ideas were viewed as
quaint but not-ready-for-prime-time," he says. "The JPL study gives it
the solid engineering underpinnings that we never really doubted, but
now are there for anyone to see."
Exactly how much of a push is needed to deflect an asteroid depends
on how long before a potential impact the intervention begins, and what
kind of orbit the object is going to follow in the interval, says Rusty
Schweickart, a former Apollo astronaut and chairman of the B612 Foundation, which funded the study.
In some cases, the asteroid will pass through a narrow "keyhole" in
space before returning on a future orbit to hit Earth. If it misses the
keyhole, which may be only a few hundred metres across, it will go on
to miss Earth.
That's where a gravity tractor alone could do the job. "The gravity
tractor is a wimp, but it's a precise wimp," Schweickart told New Scientist. "It can make very small, precise changes in orbit, and that's what you need to avoid a keyhole."
The well-known asteroid Apophis could pass through such a keyhole in 2029, leading to an impact with Earth just seven years later.
In the JPL study, the imagined asteroid is initially discovered on a
direct path to impact, so a gravity tractor would be too feeble to
deflect it alone. Instead, the team envisages a one-two punch.
First a spacecraft would be crashed directly into it, similar to the Deep Impact mission that impacted a comet
in 2005. That would provide a much greater change of direction, but in
a less controllable fashion. There's a chance it could even push the
path of the asteroid into one of those dangerous keyholes.
Then a second spacecraft, the gravity tractor, would come into play.
Weighing around a tonne and hovering about 150 metres away from the
asteroid, it would exert a gentle gravitational force, changing the
asteroid's velocity by only 0.22 microns per second each day. But over
a long enough time, that could steer it away from the keyhole.
In the simulation, a simple control system kept the spacecraft in
position, and a transponder on the asteroid helped monitor its position
and thus determine its trajectory more precisely than would be possible
The simulated asteroid was 140 metres wide and its elongated shape was copied from an asteroid called Itokawa, which was visited by Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft in 2005.
Like real asteroids, it was spinning in the study - important since
asymmetric gravitational effects could push the tractor out of
position. "We didn't want some nice easy, smooth shape," says
Schweickart. "We have a little bitty spacecraft with this monster
swinging its butt at it."
A preliminary report
on the simulation was presented by JPL's Don Yeomans at the recent
Asteroids, Comets and Meteors meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.
Comets and Asteroids - Learn more about the threat to human civilisation in our special report.
Comment: And don't forget to check out Signs of the Times' very own Special Report:
Mon, 04 Aug 2008 12:11 EDT
Heading toward its first target-asteroid,
(2867) Steins, ESA's Rosetta spacecraft has started using its cameras
to visually track the asteroid and eventually determine its orbit with
Rosetta started the optical navigation campaign on 4 August 2008, at
a distance of about 24 million km from Steins; the campaign will
continue until 4 September, when the spacecraft will be approximately
950 000 km from the asteroid.
"The orbit of Steins, with which Rosetta will rendezvous on 5
September, closing to a distance of 800 km, is only known thanks to
ground observations, but not yet with the accuracy we would like for
the close fly-by," said Gerhard Schwehm, Rosetta Mission Manager based
at ESA's European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC), near Madrid, Spain.
"We will be able to use the first data set for the trajectory correction manoeuvre planned for mid-August."
The purpose of the tracking campaign is to reduce the error in our
knowledge of Steins' orbit from about 100 km to only within 2 km (in
the direction perpendicular to the flight direction of the asteroid,
called 'cross-track'), so as to allow Rosetta an optimal approach to
this celestial body.
Both Rosetta's navigation cameras and the OSIRIS (Optical,
Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System) imaging system will
be used to track Steins.
"For the first three weeks of the campaign, however, only the
powerful eyes of OSIRIS will actually be able to spot the asteroid,
which will look only like a dot in the sky," said Andrea Accomazzo,
Rosetta Spacecraft Operations Manager at ESA's European Space
Operations Centre (ESOC), Darmstadt, Germany.
"Starting 11 days before closest approach, as the distance with
Steins decreases, the two Rosetta navigation cameras will finally be
able to see and track the asteroid, too," he added.
For the first three weeks of the campaign, Rosetta will image Steins
twice a week and then, starting on 25 August, it will take images daily
until 4 September.
The Steins orbital information gathered during the tracking campaign
will be used to adjust Rosetta's trajectory for the 5 September fly-by.
"We will already be able to use the first data set for the trajectory
correction manoeuvre planned for mid-August," said Sylvain Lodiot, from
the Rosetta Flight Control Team at ESOC.
"As Rosetta's distance from Steins decreases, the precision of the
measurements for Steins' orbit will increase even further, allowing us
the best possible trajectory corrections later on before closest
approach, especially in early September."
Light curve of the asteroid Steins
Rita Schulz, Rosetta Project Scientist based at ESA's European Space
Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), Noordwijk, the Netherlands,
explained that this is the first time in the Rosetta mission that the
OSIRIS scientific instrument is being used for tracking purposes.
"But OSIRIS will also take this opportunity to obtain 'light curves'
of Steins. Light curves tell us how the asteroid brightness varies with
time, providing us with additional preparatory information about the
asteroid, such as better knowledge of its shape and rotation
characteristics," she said.
The optical navigation campaign follows a series of active
check-outs of Rosetta's scientific instrumentation, which lasted from 5
July to 3 August this year. A mission milestone for Rosetta, these
activities also verified the instruments' readiness for the fly-by
observations, and allowed on-board software modifications to be
implemented for several of them.
The Houston Chronicle
Mon, 04 Aug 2008 11:58 EDT
Meteor shower expected to hit its peak on August 12.
This is a special month for sky watchers to focus on the western
sky, with four planets scuttling back and forth in what appears to be a
celestial game of tag.
August also means the arrival of bits of debris trailing in the path
of comet Swift-Tuttle, which we call the Perseid meteor shower, usually
the best of the year.
Venus is the brightest object in the western sky and is a convenient
guide to the other planets. The best conjunction occurs Aug. 13, when
Venus and Saturn are almost side by side.
Mercury, just a bit lower toward the horizon, joins the pair for
three nights starting Aug. 14. Binoculars may be needed to spot dim
Mars, also dim, is higher in the sky. As August wanes, look for Mars to be joined by Venus and Mercury.
Jupiter dominates the southern sky, rising at sunset and remaining visible all night.
Some early Perseids already are arriving, but the peak is expected
Aug. 12. The best time to watch is after the moon sets, around 1:30 a.m.
The history of the Perseid display goes back more than 1,900 years in Chinese records. The shower was recognized as an annual event around 1835 and linked to the comet Swift-Tuttle about 1865.
The Perseid shower peaks between Aug. 10 and 13 each year when rates
typically reach 50 or more meteors per hour. These are particularly
bright meteorites, because they enter the upper atmosphere, about 60
miles high, at the speed of 35,000 mph. Most meteors are so small that
their trail is not visible. Those that weigh as much as a gram, 1/28th
of an ounce, may make a flash as bright as a bright star. An object
weighing an ounce will make a really spectacular flash.
August also brings directly overhead the great shining arc of the Milky Way.
The richest and broadest portion of the Milky Way is in the southern
sky, dominated by the great hooked tail of Scorpius, the Scorpion, and
Sagittarius, the Teapot.
Both of these constellations are rich hunting grounds for sky
watchers. Binoculars and telescopes reveal almost every kind of
Jupiter spends this month just above the Teapot's handle.
To the west of Jupiter is the bright, red star Antares, which marks
the heart of the scorpion, the constellation Scorpius. The name of the
star means rival of Mars, which has a similar color. Antares also has a
small blue companion and possibly a second, closer companion as well.
Just to the right of Antares is the large, loose cluster of stars
known as M4. There are about 10,000 stars in the cluster, most very
dim. But their combined brightness is enough to view in binoculars.
Two more clusters particularly attractive through binoculars lie
midway between the last star in the Scorpion's tail and the teapot
spout of Sagittarius. These are M6 and M7, which is one of the
brightest of all open star clusters.
Tue, 05 Aug 2008 08:28 EDT
Beth and Dan Curley were driving down Route 611 when the basketball-sized flame shot across the sky.
It was white when Dan spotted it. By the time Beth looked up, it had
turned stoplight green. The flame died out a few seconds later.
"It wasn't far off in the sky - it was there," the Warrington woman said. "It was the coolest thing we've ever seen."
The Curleys, who saw the fireball from Route 611 near Bristol Road
in Warrington, were among several people in Bucks County who said they
spotted what appeared to be a meteor just before 10 p.m. Sunday.
According to NASA, a meteor is a bright streak of light that is
visible when a chunk of space matter enters the Earth's atmosphere. No
one who reported spotting the fireball Sunday saw it hit the ground,
which would have made it a meteorite. Warrington police said they
weren't aware of any meteor reports Sunday night, let alone any impact.
However, if it landed, it could have been anywhere. On an Internet message board, people reported seeing the ball of light from Coopersburg and Quakertown as well.
Bucks-Mont Astronomical Association president Dwight Dulsky did not
hear about the sightings, but said spotting a meteor is not unusual in
the days leading up to the annual Perseid meteor shower, expected this
year on Aug. 12, which can produce up to 60 to 90 meteors per hour.
Last Thursday night, he spotted five meteors in three hours with his
telescope, he said.
Dulsky said the International Space Station - another bright,
fast-moving object in the sky - was forecast on www.spaceweather.com to
fly over the Bucks County area around 10:15 p.m. Sunday.
Asbury Park Press
Tue, 05 Aug 2008 08:48 EDT
What witnesses described as a "blue, sparking orb" prompted several
calls to police in Wall and Howell before it apparently broke apart and
disappeared late Sunday night, police said.
Whatever it was, it was visible for at least 35 miles and prompted a police notification to McGuire Air Force Base.
Bob Hampton of Ocean Township said he was driving on the New Jersey
Turnpike near Kearny when he saw the blue-white object streak across
the sky traveling from east to west. He spotted it about the same time
some Howell residents thought it settled in the woods near Fort Plains
"It was the brightest thing I remember seeing in the night sky,"
Hampton said. "It just seemed like it threw a lot of sparks, and then I
thought it just broke up."
Now, if this seems like the beginning of some B-grade sci-fi movie, forget it.
Experts suspect the fiery visitor was not of this Earth, but added it was probably not the vanguard of an alien invasion either.
It was most likely a meteor, hitting the Earth's atmosphere at about
20,000 mph, said Louis J. Kijewski, a physicist at Monmouth University,
whose academic credentials include teaching astronomy. Probably just a
big meteor that had a dramatic burnout, he said.
That would check with the observations of witnesses like Hampton and the people who called police to report the event.
Howell police sent a patrol officer to check the area around Fort
Plains Road, after several callers said they believed the sparking ball
had set down, police Capt. Steven Dreher said.
"We didn't find anything, but we did get several calls," Dreher said.
According to the American Meteor Society, a group that observes and
charts meteor activity, August is a month that is characterized by
frequent meteor activity, most notably the Perseid meteor showers that
streak the night skies in early August.
In addition, the clear skies on Sunday also enhanced visibility, the National Weather Service said.
Wed, 06 Aug 2008 17:17 EDT
All Jeana Green could think of was that something had exploded in the sky Sunday night.
The North Middleton Township resident, her husband and two of her
neighbors sat on a deck talking when the sky lit up about 10:15 p.m.
"It looked like a shooting star, but it was a lot bigger," Green
said. "There were pale sparks and orange flames that turned blue-green.
Then it was like a fireball, and right before it disappeared, there was
a flash like it exploded and it was gone. It lit up the sky like heat
Mike Snider has been getting a number of reports like that, and he
-- along with a 100 others -- saw something similar to Green's
description at the same time at the Naylor Observatory in Lewisberry
Except Snider expected it.
At 10:16 p.m. Sunday, the International Space Station made one of its many passes across the Earth, according to NASA.
"That had a lot of people buzzing on Sunday," said Snider, president
of the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg, PA, Inc. "The International
Space Station transits occur every 90 minutes, but this was one of the
better transits. The sun was at the right angle and things were just
about perfect for observation."
Only a few of those passes, usually once a day, can be seen in this
area. This particular minute-long pass just happened to be very visible
to Cumberland County residents, Snider said.
Comment: Sure, don't worry - it was just the space
station. It always looks like it's exploding when it passes over.
Nothing to see here, move along.
Green, however, was skeptical that it was just the space station.
"It definitely looked like an explosion," Green said. "It flashed really brightly."
Depending on the sunlight and the angle of the space station, a
flash of light can occur, according to Snider, who mentioned the
Iridium satellite constellation, made up of 66 satellites that on
occasion cause satellite flares when the sunlight hits them.
Snider, however, doesn't rule out that it could have been a meteor,
stating that the observatory would be tracking one item and won't be
able to see everything at all times of the day.
Green's description also fits the "flaring meteor" or
bolide/fireball meteor, though those are much rarer than the meteors
that people can see every night.
"There were a number of meteors seen," Snider said. "On any clear
night, you can see one or two meteors an hour. It's quite common to see
a meteor pass through the sky."
David Griffith of Bucks County, formerly from Carlisle and avid
skywatcher, noted he saw something similar in his skies Sunday night a
little before 10 p.m. - something he wouldn't confuse with a satellite.
"I enjoy watching the night sky for meteor showers and aurora
events, [and] I'll watch the sky when the ISS passes over," Griffith
said. "Depending on when you see the ISS there are many variables that
affect the brightness of the station. Probably the main factor is the
relative position of the sun. Sometimes it looks like a faint star.
Other times it looks like a very bright planet. The bolide that
vaporized in the night sky on Aug. 3 was brighter than the moon. The
bolide could not be confused for the ISS. The only way the ISS would
like like what I saw is if it reentered the atmosphere."
Whether it was the International Space Station or a rare form of a
meteor, residents can catch more glimpses of a night light show when
the Perseid meteor shower gets into full swing next week. While the
shower has been active since mid-July, it is expected to peak on Aug.
12, creating a show of 40 to 60 meteors per hour.
Though there is no exact time at which the Perseid meteor shower
will occur, the best conditions to view it will be on a clear night
with little moonlight. Snider said the shower will come from the
direction of the Perseus constellation, which will be located a little
east of due north.
Thu, 07 Aug 2008 17:28 EDT
A Bexley woman is hoping News Shopper readers
can throw some light on a mystery object seen falling from the sky at
the height of last night's storm.
Jean Carpenter, who lives just off Bexleyheath Broadway, was
watching the spectacular lightning display from the back step of her
home with her son.
Mrs Carpenter, who is in her 70s, said: "We were looking southwards
towards Bexley Village at about 9.40pm when we saw an object falling
from the sky.
"It was all lit up, as if it was on fire and was just dropping straight down."
She added: "In the light from the lightning we could see a vapour or smoke trail behind it."
Mrs Carpenter described it as "a ball of fire".
She and her son were concerned that it might have been a small plane which had been struck by lightning.
She said: "We tuned into all the television and radio news bulletins, but we heard nothing."
Mrs Carpenter says the object could have crashed as far away as
Bromley, but inquiries by News Shopper to the emergency services have
so far failed to find anything.
Thu, 07 Aug 2008 14:20 EDT
Call it the Kincardine X-file.
A mysterious, explosion-like boom last Thursday evening that rattled
this quiet town northwest of Toronto has yet to be explained.
The Kincardine newspaper reported that a meteor shower likely caused
the thunderous bangs, which sent firefighters and Ontario Provincial
Police looking for a problem they couldn't find.
Others pointed to a sonic boom from a jet, while some locals suspect
the earth-shaking noise came from the neighbouring Bruce Power nuclear
"We can't confirm or deny anything. We have no explanation," said South Bruce OPP Staff Sgt. Paul Bradley.
Bob Mackenzie, who lives about 3 kilometres from the plant, said he was frightened when his house began to shake around 11 p.m.
"I was walking from my kitchen to my living room and there was this
enormous noise, and the vibration came right up through my feet, like
an earthquake," he said.
M.J. Stewart, another local resident, said the sound - two bangs
about 15 seconds apart - was so loud that two picture frames fell off
her wall. After the first boom, which shook her whole cottage, she went
outside to investigate.
"It came from the direction of the nuclear power plant," Stewart
said. "There were two very large steam releases over the plant. Even
though it was night, the plant is so well lit you could actually see
the big white cloud."
Company officials and the nuclear regulator maintain there is nothing to report from that night.
"It's a very interesting story, and I'm curious like any other
resident, but it certainly had nothing to do with our operations," said
Steve Cannon, a spokesperson for Bruce Power.
Sunni Locatelli, a spokesperson for the Canadian Nuclear Safety
Commission, said regulatory staff at the Bruce site also reported
nothing unusual. "There was no event at the Bruce site that would have
led to those sounds," she said.
That leaves the meteor shower theory. Bradley said the London
Emergency Dispatch centre did receive calls from people who said they
saw large streaks through the sky at roughly the same time they heard a
The London Free Press
Fri, 08 Aug 2008 17:40 EDT
The mystery surrounding explosions that shook the Kincardine area
last Thursday deepened yesterday with University of Western Ontario
scientists ruling out a meteor shower.
"Something pretty significant exploded south and west of Goderich and Kincardine.
"It could have exploded out in Lake Huron," said Dr. Peter Brown,
associate professor in the department of physics and astronomy at
Western and the Canada Research Chair of meteor science.
Highly sensitive devices installed near Lucan by Western to monitor
low-frequency sound waves detected a series of four impulses that
lasted about a minute.
The impulses started at 11:12 p.m. on July 31.
Five minutes later, a low frequency rumbling was detected coming from the Kincardine area.
"If you had been in London and it was really quiet outside, you
should just have been able to hear the low rumble from these
explosions," said Brown.
"That's unusual at this sort of a distance."
With Ontario's largest nuclear plant located just north of
Kincardine, the explosions have triggered inter-national media interest.
Officials at Bruce Power have said nothing unusual happened that night at the nuclear station.
South Bruce OPP were inundated with 911 calls shortly after 11 p.m. on July 31.
Residents said they witnessed shaking walls and rattling windows.
Brown said the signals detected at Lucan, probably five or six minutes after the original blast, were intense.
If it had been caused by a meteor, there should have been a bright fireball in the sky, he said.
The university has a camera system at Kincardine aimed at the sky to capture the image of any meteors.
"We have already looked during the time interval of interest," Brown said. "It was clear that night and no meteor."
The monitoring devices at Lucan indicate the explosions occurred in
the same area south and west of the Kincardine area and south of
In the past, the same instruments have picked up mining explosions
in Wyoming in the western U.S. and the Shell refinery explosion in
"Based on frequency content and the phenomenology of the signals,
these are not consistent from what we would expect from a meteor at
all," Brown said.
Comment: But it does consistent, as it could be an overhead explosion.
But the signals also don't fit another theory, that it was caused by a sonic boom from a jet, he said.
"They are not all that consistent with shock waves you would see with supersonic aircraft," he said.
The closest fit for the signals from the explosion, particularly the
low rumbling, would be surface blasting at a mine, Brown said.
The only mine in the area is Sifto Salt's underground operation at Goderich.
United Press International
Fri, 08 Aug 2008 23:43 EDT
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories - Reports of a large, smoky
explosion that allegedly killed several whales in Canadian Arctic
waters is being investigated by the military.
The mystery began July 31 when Inuit hunters at the top of Baffin
Island reported the blast, followed by a cloud of black smoke and
several dead beached whales, the Canwest News Service reported. Soon
after, a member of the aboriginal military reservist Canadian Rangers
made a similar report.
The Defense Department said none of its vessels were in the area,
although cruise ships, cargo ships and supply vessels use the waters
between July and September, the report said.
The military said it was dispatching a long-range Aurora aircraft
over the area to search for clues as to the source of the explosion. In
addition, the federal Parks Canada agency dispatched a ship as part of
the investigation, the report said.
Keith Pelley, a Fisheries and Oceans Canada spokesman in Nunavut,
said he wouldn't comment on the possibility of a foreign submarine in
"Until we hear from Parks Canada and the military, there's nothing we can confirm or deny," he told the news service.
Thu, 11 Nov 1999 15:03 EST
Less than a week before the peak of the Leonids meteor shower, there
is a slim chance that an astral display from a newly-discovered comet
will be visible Thursday in the northern sky -- near the lower left
star in the bowl of the Big Dipper.
Comet LINEAR, found in May by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research team, made its closest pass to the sun on September 20.
Some 40 days later -- on Thursday, November 11 -- Earth will cross
near that point, giving skywatchers an opportunity to see whether or
not the comet, which last cruised close to the sun 26,000 years ago
previous to this pass, has left behind a trail of reflective debris.
"Were hoping that the last time it was here it had a good burst of
meteors that shot out with a bit of force as ice from the comet
vaporized," said Brian Marsden, who calculated the comets orbit after
it was discovered.
Marsden runs the Minor Planet Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian
Center for Astrophysics, where he is associate director for planetary
"Its all highly speculative," he said. If the sun failed to melt
enough material from the comet in its recent pass, then there will be
no trail to view as a meteor shower.
"Its very much a long shot," Marsden said.
The object (C/199 J3) first was identified as an asteroid, but Czech
Republic astronomers later determined it to be a comet. Joe Rao, an
amateur astronomer, predicted the prospective meteor shower.
The shower could end as late as November 18.
Predictions of new meteor showers generally fail to pan out, Marsden
said, especially for comets that take tens of thousands of years to
circle the sun like Comet LINEAR.
Due to the cosmological brevity of humankind, astronomers are more
familiar with the behavior of shorter-period comets, like the one that
generates the Perseid meteor shower every August.
"For a given comet we don't know physically what happened," Marsden
said. "You've got to have an active comet actively producing meteors.
We don't know that this one is."
Meteors come from dust released from a comets nucleus, but that dust
often tends to hang close to a comet rather than trail it, Marsden
said. In the former case, the chances for a meteor shower would be
little to none.
Wed, 13 Aug 2008 15:53 EDT
For the last few years, astronomers have faced a puzzle: The vast
majority of asteroids that come near the Earth are of a type that
matches only a tiny fraction of the meteorites that most frequently hit
Since meteorites are mostly pieces of asteroids, this discrepancy
was hard to explain, but a team from MIT and other institutions has now
found what it believes is the answer to the puzzle. The smaller rocks
that most often fall to Earth, it seems, come straight in from the main
asteroid belt out between Mars and Jupiter, rather than from the
near-Earth asteroid (NEA) population.
The puzzle gradually emerged from a long-term study of the
properties of asteroids carried out by MIT professor of planetary
science Richard Binzel and his students, along with postdoctoral
researcher P. Vernazza, who is now with the European Space Agency, and
A.T. Tokunaga, director of the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility.
By studying the spectral signatures of near-Earth asteroids, they
were able to compare them with spectra obtained on Earth from the
thousands of meteorites that have been recovered from falls. But the
more they looked, the more they found that most NEAs -- about
two-thirds of them -- match a specific type of meteorites called LL
chondrites, which only represent about 8 percent of meteorites. How
could that be?
"Why do we see a difference between the objects hitting the ground
and the big objects whizzing by?" Binzel asks. "It's been a
headscratcher." As the effect became gradually more and more noticeable
as more asteroids were analyzed, "we finally had a big enough data set
that the statistics demanded an answer. It could no longer be just a
Way out in the main belt, the population is much more varied, and
approximates the mix of types that is found among meteorites. But why
would the things that most frequently hit us match this distant
population better than it matches the stuff that's right in our
neighborhood? That's where the idea emerged of a fast track all the way
from the main belt to a "splat!" on Earth's surface.
This fast track, it turns out, is caused by an obscure effect that
was discovered long ago, but only recently recognized as a significant
factor in moving asteroids around, called the Yarkovsky effect.
The Yarkovsky effect causes asteroids to change their orbits as a
result of the way they absorb the sun's heat on one side and radiate it
back later as they rotate around. This causes a slight imbalance that
slowly, over time, alters the object's path. But the key thing is this:
The effect acts much more strongly on the smallest objects, and only
weakly on the larger ones.
"We think the Yarkovsky effect is so efficient for meter-size
objects that it can operate on all regions of the asteroid belt," not
just its inner edge, Binzel says.
Thus, for chunks of rock from boulder-size on down -- the kinds of
things that end up as typical meteorites -- the Yarkovsky effect plays
a major role, moving them with ease from throughout the asteroid belt
on to paths that can head toward Earth. For larger asteroids a
kilometer or so across, the kind that we worry about as potential
threats to the Earth, the effect is so weak it can only move them small
Binzel's study concludes that the largest near-Earth asteroids
mostly come from the asteroid belt's innermost edge, where they are
part of a specific "family" thought to all be remnants of a larger
asteroid that was broken apart by collisions. With an initial nudge
from the Yarkovsky effect, kilometer-sized asteroids from the Flora
region can find themselves "over the edge" of the asteroid belt and
sent on a path to Earth's vicinity through the perturbing effects of
the planets called resonances.
The new study is also good news for protecting the planet. One of
the biggest problems in figuring out how to deal with an approaching
asteroid, if and when one is discovered on a potential collision
course, is that they are so varied. The best way of dealing with one
kind might not work on another.
But now that this analysis has shown that the majority of near-Earth
asteroids are of this specific type -- stony objects, rich in the
mineral olivine and poor in iron -- it's possible to concentrate most
planning on dealing with that kind of object, Binzel says. "Odds are,
an object we might have to deal with would be like an LL chondrite, and
thanks to our samples in the laboratory, we can measure its properties
in detail," he says. "It's the first step toward 'know thy enemy'."
The research is being reported this week in the journal Nature.
In addition to Binzel, Vernazza and Tokunaga, the co-authors are MIT
graduate students Christina Thomas and Francesca DeMeo, S.J. Bus of the
University of Hawaii, and A.S. Rivkin of Johns Hopkins University. The
work was supported by NASA and the NSF.
Local 6 News
Wed, 13 Aug 2008 13:24 EDT
Orlando, Fla. -- A space shuttle-like "sonic-boom" sound was followed by a fast-moving fire that left several people temporarily homeless at a subdivision near the University of Central Florida.
Firefighters responded reports of flames shooting 10 feet into the
sky at the Hunt Club complex on Hunt Club Lane in Orlando located just
south of UCF Tuesday night.
Several people living in the complex described a loud explosion before the fire.
"It really reminded me of the space shuttle landing and it was just like boom," witness Zach Rose said.
"At 10 or 10:30 I heard a very loud explosion," witness Huwan Griffith said.
Fire crews said the blaze was so intense that they had to fight it from outside the house with a ladder truck.
Some fire victims told Local 6 that all of their possessions were destroyed by fire.
"I can't say anything," fire victim Whing Wang said. "Everything in there was gone."
At least four townhomes were destroyed by flames.
Thu, 14 Aug 2008 16:25 EDT
Clyde Primary School has been rocked by news it is the custodian of a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite.
Principal Maurie Richardson said the school had received word from
Museum Victoria that an 85kg rock on display at the school is a
fragment of Cranbourne's world-famous meteorite shower, the Cranbourne
Mr Richardson said when he announced the news over the PA system a huge cheer rang out across the school.
"The kids are really excited about it,'' Mr Richardson said. "We've
had it on display at the school for two months, waiting for the test
"They feel like it's their rock, in a way. We've lovingly named it Clyde.
Museum Victoria Natural Science Collections manager, Dermot Henry,
said it was an exciting find, with just 16 meteorites ever found in
"We get a lot of rocks brought in that people think are meteorites.
But there have only been four in the last 25 years that have turned out
to be meteorites,'' Mr Henry said.
Sydney Morning Herald
Sat, 23 Aug 2008 13:53 EDT
An Australian researcher has won an
international prize for her plan to wrap a giant asteroid with
reflective sheeting to stop it colliding with the earth and destroying
Such an impact would have the force of 110,000 Hiroshima atomic
bombs if the asteroid, which actually exists, hits the planet in 2036,
said Mary D'Souza, a PhD student with the University of Queensland's
School of Engineering.
Far from being daunted by the prospect of global annihilation, Ms
D'Souza went to work on a possible solution and took out the top prize
in an international competition to find new ways of stopping asteroids
from hitting Earth.
She beat entries from around the world in the Space Generation
Advisory Council's Move An Asteroid 2008 competition and will travel to
Glasgow at the end of September to present her plan at the
International Astronautical Congress, the world's largest space
Her proposal involves using enhanced solar radiation pressure to
move the threatening asteroid off its path to Earth by wrapping it with
Mylar film, "a step up from Kevlar", she said.
The solar reflecting material is already used on satellites.
Satellites also could do the wrapping.
"I'm using a satellite that's orbiting the asteroid and the rotation
of the asteroid itself to wrap this ribbon," Ms D'Souza said today.
"So it's kind of like it wraps as it rotates."
The Mylar film covering just 50 per cent of the asteroid would
change its surface from dull to reflective, a necessary step to harness
the power of the sun.
"What happens then is light from the sun shines on the body (of the
asteroid) so more of it is reflected ... and it actually acts to move
it away from the sun and the earth."
The asteroid is 330 metres in diameter, only a fraction of the 10km
wide asteroid which some scientists say caused the weather event which
led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.
But having a 330 metre asteroid hit the planet did not bear thinking about.
"We'd rather not consider that," she said.
"It's kind of like a very, very, bad day for earth.
"Scientists say if it did impact the earth, it would carry the force of 110,000 Hiroshima bombs."
The rogue asteroid spends most of its time on the other side of the
sun to the earth and the next observation period would be in 2011, Ms
"At that time we'll probably be able to refine its orbit and determine how likely it is to hit the earth.
"If this one were to hit the earth, you could say that most of life would be extinguished," Ms D'Souza said.
Thu, 28 Aug 2008 12:34 EDT
Allen West's presentation August 8, 2008 to the Pecos Archeological
Conference at the University of Northern Arizona's Cline Library
About eight or nine minutes of this presentation concerning nanodiamonds have been edited pending publication of the evidence.
About eight or nine minutes of this presentation concerning nanodiamonds have been edited pending publication of the evidence.
About eight or nine minutes of this presentation concerning nanodiamonds have been edited pending publication of the evidence.
Panel Discussion #1 Clovis Comet
Pecos Archeological Conference
Saturday, August 9, 8:00 am to 10:00 am
Comet Theory, End of Clovis and the Black Mat
Chair: Dr. Christian E. Downum, Northern Arizona University
Guests: Mark Boslough, Sandia National Laboratories, Carolyn
Shoemaker, Co-Discovered of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 that crashed into
Jupiter in 1994, John McCone, Planetary Geologist Arizona State, Allen
West, GeoSciences Corporation, Ted Bunch, former chief Exobiology, NASA
- Context of the Clovis Comet impact in Southwestern archeology
- Importance of C. Vance Haynes paper in PNAS concerning the Black Mat termination boundary
- Quotes Haynes in PNAS "However, I reiterate, something major
happened 10,900 before present we have yet to understand" concerning
the purported comet impact
- nervous laughter directed at the evidence of demise of mammoth at the Black Mat
Panel Discussion #2 Clovis Comet
- "Extraordinary find" in Archeology, event came in an instant
- End of Intro
- Microphone goes to Allen West, a lead author of the theory
- Eloise, one of the last NA mammoths, is pried from the Black Mat
- Bones mildly radioactive
- Magnetic spherules can be found with neodymium magnets in the same strata
- Tens of millions of animals disappear and dozens of species go extinct at Black Mat
- No Clovis points above the Black mat
- Lonsdelite diamonds found at three sites
- Mic goes to Ted Bunch, former Chief, NASA, Exobiology, at conclusion
Panel Discussion #3 Clovis Comet
- Ted Bunch stresses suddenness of event and the abundant physical evidence
- Recalls that crater research was historically greeted with skepticism
- Mrs. Shoemaker's late husband Gene's key role is recalled
- Describes the event broadly, ice rafting and fresh water into Atlantic
- Draws analogy to discovery of KT event
- Suggests aerial bursts that struck ground over Laurentide Ice Sheet
- Diamonds found all across North American
- Quenched artifacts of extreme cosmic conditions
- Diamond association confirms other evidence as inescapably ET
- 8:00 mins Mic goes to Mark Boslough of Sandia Laboratory and asteroid impact modeler
- thought idea was crazy because extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
- No doubt great climate changes have occured
- Cites recent Copenhagen study as refuting the evidence
Panel Discussion #4 Clovis Comet
- Boslough cites 14,700 years ago climate shift as just as dramatic
- rearrangement of circulation occurs then as well
- YD conclusion "just as abrupt" as YD
- Recites diagnostic evidence of impact
- Original reason for skepticism: Size that is claimed
- Too rare to have happened
- Implausibility of scenario main reason of skepticism
- 3:16 Carolyn Shoemaker takes mic
- Recalls and dismisses the idea out of hand as being unrealistic
- Impact is too fashionable to have occurred
- People become confused by circular craters
- She investigates Tunguska
- Describes Tunguska
- Not convinced "any markers are totally diagnostic"
- Younger Dryas and end-Pleistocene not a mass extinction, people lived, sea life not ended
- Can a comet do this?
- Seems to her like a comet would go through the atmosphere and ice, can't see why not
- Should have a crater
- Large comets, for the most part, have not come close to earth in human history
- Trouble with diamonds
- Trouble with carbon spherules
- All could be found in ordinary situations
- Turns over to John McHone at 8:47
- Tells story
Panel Discussion #5 Clovis Comet
- Took a day to dismiss a crater as non-ET in Columbia in the 60's
- In order to judge these things one needs experience
- 2:50 Saw published abstracts from AGU Acapulco and first thought was," these guys are wacko!"
- Takes gratuitous shot at Carolina bay theory
- Accuses proponents of grasping for straws
- Dismissed but revisited
- As more and more formal info comes out, he doesn't understand
- Says micro diamonds are useless, has questions
- Closer, longer, look needed
- Claims ignorance of the components of comets
- Has worked with Ted Bunch
- Anthro and Archeo experience is limited
- Cracks joke
- Happy to be here
- Not sold
- Iron spherules more common than proposed
- Attended last night's talk
Panel Discussion #6 Clovis Comet
- Went back and looked at popular literature
- Suggests hype
- Demands info on processing the materials
- 1:30 Allen West takes mic
- Takes issue with exclusion of Tunguska-like multi bursts
- Cant argue, as Boslough,
- Repeats extensive evidence as exhaustively provided in published info
- Reference to previous evenings program
- Stresses again the extraordinary uniqueness of evidence in stratigraphical record
- Shift needed from classical view "big rock in crater" to modern view "that it hit the air -- instead of the earth"
- 5:40 Bunch takes mic
- Bunch -- older than dirt -- and helped develop shock quartz criteria
- KT, like the YD, has same pattern we see here
- Worked with Alvarez, et. al.
- Analogy to KT
- 34% of KT did not have shock indicators
- shock diamonds and melted particles found
Panel Discussion #7 Clovis Comet
Panel Discussion #8 Clovis Comet
- Questions West where radioactivity comes into play
- Carolyn Shoemaker salutes West's fine presentation from the night before
- Ask for more substantiation bf "we can truly accept this idea is an impact"
- Suggest fragments of comet seem too large
- If happened would need to be an airburst with dramatic effects, not certain if those claimed are appropriate
- Will not dismiss airburst out of hand
- 4:47 Boslough takes mic
- Boslough has number of things he like to say
- His panel side are skeptics not cynics
- Not judgmental, just Sagan-like careful
- Notes that David Morrison understands statistical probability
- Accepts that probability is not determined by observation
- Card play analogy
- Knows that abrupt climate change is common
- 4-5 kilometer object breaking into a thousand of objects
- Each one 400-500 meters in diameter
- Objects of that size would produce ground impacts
Panel Discussion #9 Clovis Comet
- Boslough's main argument against the theory: It is too improbable
- Bunch offers the story of Harold Eury, Noble, of the two origins
of moon -- both impossible -- therefore the moon does not exist.
- Q: Notes the frequency of 500 year floods in lesser time spans
- What is proposed to have melted the ice?
- West: Leaving Ice Age already, well documented uniqueness of break-up and freshwater incursion of YD event.
- Well documented evidence of dramatic sudden changes North AmericanAtlantic hydrology
- Lots of reason of climate changes, most are GS conveyor related, leads to cold
- Here is where sudden failure occurs and we find in the cores:
Iridium, diamonds, carbon spherules, magnetic spherules exactly where
the dam fails and YD begins
- Q: Ask why can some panel ignore Tunguska?
- A: West describes angle of entry physics and equal probability of entry
- POWER DIES FOR A MOMENT
- P. Schultz at NASA Ames blew hole into ice and left sand untouched, two miles of ice would surely do the same.
Panel Discussion #10 Clovis Comet
- Boslough says impact is more probable at 45 degrees.
- Says theory has multiplying improbabilities of 10X, improbably
large, improbably broken, improbably a comet, improbable angle
- Likens it too pulling 5 aces
- Describes range of angles and ground effects
- Q: Need to hear from bio and eco side of questions
- West notes difficulty of locating actual bones of the big day
- West notes loss of grasslands and starvation did in beasts
- Loss of water for just few days may have been critical, especially to grazers
- applause -- Moderator stresses importance of issue
Pecos Archeological Conference evidence of the Clovis Comet extinction
Clovis Comet (Bunch) #1
Clovis Comet (Bunch) #2
Clovis Comet (Bunch) #3
Clovis Comet (Bunch) #4
Ted Bunch, former NASA Chief of Exobiology, gives a presentation on the impact dynamics of the Clovis Comet
Stone Age comet destroys North America
The Younger Dryas Impact Event, postulated here by researchers Ted
Bunch, Richard Firestone and Ken Tankersley, may have led to the
extinction of large mammals, such as mammoths, saber tooth cats, and 33
other species of large mammal 12,900 in the past. Perhaps more
disturbing is the effect the event had on the first inhibitants of
America, the so-called Clovis people. The Clovis culture disappears at
the same time the animals do. This short excerpt provides some
background on this cosmic incident and the evidence supporting it.